The Henry Jackson Society released a report last year that described the connection between sexual violence and terrorism. In Trafficking Terror: How modern slavery and sexual violence fund terrorism, the fellow researcher Nikita Milaki, explained that although sexual violence is common among traffickers and terrorists, the motivations behind it are different. Ideology is the key factor regarding the use of sexual violence by terrorist groups, who do it as a means to humiliate, punish unbelievers, and attract fighters. When it comes to traffickers, financial gain is the main reason. However, there are cases where terrorists turn sexual violence into a profitable practice, such as the trade of sexual slaves.


                The report points three case studies in which was possible to identify connections between sexual violence and terrorism:


  • The subjection of Yazidi women into slavery by Daesh. Slavery and sexual violence have become normal practices in some territories conquered by Daesh. The report lists pamphlets issued by the terrorist group containing justifications to slavery and rules to be followed regarding the treatment of slaves.
  • The abduction of women by Boko Haram. In this case, forced marriages and forced conversions to Islam are more usual. According to Ms. Milaki, it is evident that Boko Haram has been using forced marriage to force women to follow its ideology.
  • The presence of domestic violence on the records of western terrorists, prior or during their radicalisation.



              Trafficking Terror sheds light on the possibilities of revenue that slavery and ransom payments can provide to terrorists groups. According to the report, payments for the liberation of Yazidi slaves have frequently been used as a fundraising tool for Daesh. The return of Yazidi captives often happens through the intermediation of a smuggler and is financed by their families – in some cases the Kurdish Regional Government was involved. However, it is still unclear whether Daesh is paid directly, despite evidences that suggest it is. The report estimates that, in 2016, Daesh’s revenue from kidnapping reached $10-30 million.


              Besides discussing the connection between sexual violence and terrorism, the report also mentioned some trafficking routes used by terrorist groups. One of the trafficking routes for sexual exploitation begins in Nigeria and passes thought Niger, Libya and Italy (an alternative one passes through Mali, Algeria and ends in Spain). Another route begins in Iraq or Syria and reaches Europe through Turkey and Greece. Daesh is present in both territories and it is believed they are charging migrants to reach Europe. As stated by the document, terrorist groups have been involved with sexual and drug trafficking, and taxing of people.


               The report recommends authorities to handle sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism and human trafficking as a means to fund terrorism when connected to terrorist groups. Trafficking Terror also highlights the role of The Department of International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to pressure Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria to outlaw sexual violence.



The full report can be accessed here:



By Lais Carregosa